Category Archives: Morning tease

The Monday Morning Teaser

For the last six months or so, my background reading project has been about the disturbing below-American-radar changes that have been happening in Israel during the last few decades. In my files I have a long shapeless “Israel’s Identity Crisis” article that is far from ready for public consumption. But I was able to pull together some of those thoughts this week to discuss the significance for myself and for Americans in general of how Prime Minister Netanyahu’s turn-to-the-dark-side saved his political career. He trashed Obama, the peace process, and Israel’s Arab citizens — and the voters loved it.

I’m still debating on the title, which currently is “What Just Happened?”. This is the kind of article where every sentence has to be phrased just right, so even though it seems complete I probably won’t get it out until 9 or 10.

The weekly summary will probably be later than usual, maybe noon or one.

The Monday Morning Teaser

For a current-events blog, The Weekly Sift focuses an unusual amount of its attention on the past. That’s because I believe American history is often mistold and misunderstood, leaving most Americans with a false image of who we are and where our current problems come from.

This is especially true with regard to race, slavery, and the Civil War. Three of the Sift’s most popular posts retell the post-Civil-War history of America: “Not a Tea Party, a Confederate Party“, “A Short History of White Racism in the Two-Party System“, and “Slavery Lasted Until Pearl Harbor“.
 This week I push back into the pre-Civil-War period with a review of Edward Baptist’s recent book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism.

In the usual high-school U.S. history class, slavery is what Alfred Hitchcock used to call a MacGuffin: something for the characters to compete over that has no real significance otherwise. (The Maltese Falcon, for example). From the Constitutional Convention to the Civil War, white politicians come up with all kinds of plots to increase or diminish slavery, but what the slaves actually do is only discussed in sidebars, if at all. So, for example, “Dred Scott” is a story about the Supreme Court, not about Dred Scott. Even abolitionism is mainly the story of William Lloyd Garrison and Harriet Beecher Stowe, with African Americans making only cameo appearances.

Baptist turns all that upside-down, and tells the Washington-to-Lincoln history of America as the story of slaves and their enslavers: How the work of slaves built the wealth of America, and how the battle to control those slaves and that wealth structured America. Telling the story that way, it turns out, connects all kinds of episodes that seem like a random list of stuff-that-happened in the usual telling.

I figure to have that post out by nine. The weekly summary (let’s say around 11) will talk about the Republican senators’ letter to Iran; the resignations, protests, and shootings that resulted from the Justice Department’s report on Ferguson; the racist-frat flap at University of Oklahoma; and a few other things, including the death of Terry Pratchett.

The Monday Morning Teaser

The featured article this week is about Ferguson. The feds released two reports based on their investigations — one about the Michael Brown shooting and another about the general state of policing in Ferguson. The short version: Darren Wilson gets off but the FPD doesn’t.

My conclusion after reading both is that overall this is a good ending to a tragic story. The point of the Ferguson protests was never just the Brown shooting; the Brown shooting was supposed to be an egregious example of a larger problem.

In the weekly summary: The Selma anniversary. Was Netanyahu right about Iran? New hope in the ObamaCare case before the Supreme Court. And some dogs in very deep snow.

I’m still on the road and my internet connection is acting flaky this morning, so I hesitate to make predictions about when either post will appear.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week the clown show was back in town: Friday, Republicans in the House came within hours of shutting down the Homeland Security Department, and managed to pass only a one-week funding bill. So this week they can play the same game of chicken all over again.

That’s why today’s featured article will be “The Myth of Republican Governance”. Every time the Republicans get more power — first the House, then the Senate — we hear how now they’re going to have to get serious and prove to the voters that they can govern responsibly.

They haven’t and they won’t. Government dysfunction is actually a strategy now, and until we understand that, we’re going to keep trying to live in a bygone era. “Can’t make me!” the bratty little kid says, and in this case he might be right.

The weekly summary will also cover the net neutrality win, Obama’s Keystone Pipeline veto, Bill O’Reilly’s troubles, and the “problem of good” that right-wing Christians have discovered, before closing with a hilarious Jim Jefferies routine about gun control.

As for when these posts will appear, I make no promises. I still have a lot of supporting links to find for the featured post, and posting from the road (I’m in Savannah, on my way to Florida) is always a little unpredictable. Be patient.


The Monday Morning Teaser

The recent Atlantic article “What ISIS Really Wants” has that unique trait that makes an article worth discussing at length: It combines deep insight with deep flaws. It taught me a lot about how end-times prophesy and the Caliphate’s role in ISIS’s interpretation of Sharia figure in the Islamic State’s appeal. But the article wraps those lessons inside an orientalist view of Islam, in which re-creating the 7th century is the only way to be “serious” about the religion.

It would be a shame if readers either ignored the article or swallowed it whole. But fortunately, its insights into the Islamic State are completely separable from its stereotypes about Islam. I guess that’s what a sift is for.

Look for that article — I’m still futzing with the title, but it will have “Islamic State” in it somewhere — around 10 EST.

The summary will go on to discuss whether President Obama loves America (isn’t that the issue we really need to be talking about?), whether conservatism can learn from its mistakes, and Netanyahu’s upcoming speech to Congress, before closing with a sex fantasy that a feminist cartoonist prefers to 50 Shades of Grey.

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week I spent some time looking around on the anti-gay-marriage Facebook page Marriage Conservation to see what kinds of arguments motivate the people who seemed most thoughtful and reasonable (i.e., not the ones who express a blind hatred for all things gay). My response to those arguments will be in “When Hate Stays in the Closet”, which I think will be out around 8 EST.

I don’t know if this post will convince anyone, but I hope it will at least explain why the rest of us don’t find these points as obvious and compelling as the “marriage conservationists” do. (Feel free to forward it to that aunt or cousin who keeps sending you anti-gay stuff.)

The weekly summary will discuss President Obama’s proposed Congressional authorization for the war against ISIL, Brian Williams, Jon Stewart, the Chapel Hill murders, and a few other things, before closing with a short video demonstrating how to make a clarinet out of a carrot. (Hard to believe Bugs Bunny never thought of that.)

The Monday Morning Teaser

This week was a lesson in the unpredictability of presidential campaigns. Who knew Republican candidates would be talking about the measles vaccine? Maybe next week they’ll argue about whether cities should have fire departments or some other issue no one is thinking about now. (BTW: This has been an example of why I haven’t been taking Rand Paul’s candidacy seriously: He has never figured out how to downplay his loonier views, so if he ever becomes the focus of the campaign, the other candidates will maneuver him into spending a week talking about eliminating public schools or something.)

If you’ve been listening to the vaccination debate and wondering “Why are we talking about this?”, this week’s featured article will take it back to its roots in “The Individual and the Herd”. It should be out by 9 EST.

The weekly summary will say more about the measles outbreak, then talk about the wonderful talk President Obama gave at the National Prayer Breakfast — and the fevered response to the two lines in which he pointed out that Christianity is open to abuse just like Islam is.

I’ll also mention some of the minor matters that got lost in all the sturm und drang about measles and the Crusades, like next year’s federal budget, and state budgets whose main purpose is to promote the governor’s shot at the Republican presidential nomination.

The summary will close with a very creative smash-up that turns the Coen brothers’ movies into one big conversation. Expect that by noon.

And in case you’re wondering: It’s still snowing. If Shakespeare had set “Twelfth Night” in New England, Feste would sing, “The snow, it snoweth every day.”

The Monday Morning Teaser

With two feet of Winter Storm Juno snow still on the ground, this morning I’m watching Nashua get a second blanket from Linus. (You don’t often get an opportunity for a pun like that; I couldn’t resist.) But the blogosphere has no snow days, here we go.

This week’s featured article collects what I see as the highlights of an interesting argument, the one touched off by Jonathan Chait’s article on political correctness. And by the way, what is political correctness anyway? Is it a real thing, or just an insult that conservatives throw around? (People I agree with argue both positions.)

In the weekly summary, I finally have to admit that the 2016 presidential campaign has started, at least on the Republican side. Suddenly, it isn’t just pundits speculating about whether possible candidates will announce that they are thinking about forming committees to study whether they should start raising money for a run. With the Iowa Freedom Summit and the Freedom Partners candidate forum now in the past, we have seen undeclared-but-really-running candidates trying out their stump speeches in front of real audiences, and putting the results on YouTube where we can all watch. And there was also that weird ramble by Sarah Palin, which I’m not really qualified to comment on since I’m not a psychiatrist.

But we won’t have Mitt Romney to kick around this year. We liberals who don’t have a quarter of a billion dollars will just have to pick another victim for our politics of envy. (The official Weekly Sift program of the 2016 race will appear next week.)

Also, the EU is trying to figure out what Greece’s turn to the left means, and whether the fever will spread to Spain. And there was another one of those nobody-cared-about-this-stuff-when-the-First-Family-was-white pseudo-scandals about Michelle not wearing a scarf to King Abdullah’s funeral. Texans demonstrated against the pending Muslim takeover of their state, and a bunch of other strange stuff happened.

And snow. There’s been lots and lots of snow. (Did I mention that already?)

The political correctness article should be out by 9 EST, and the summary by noon.

The Monday Morning Teaser

Liberal reform in Islam — an authentically Muslim movement for freedom, tolerance, and democracy — is something that many Americans simultaneously wish for and claim is impossible. The innermost nature of Islam, we are told, is violently intolerant of all alternatives. The assassins, the suicide bombers, the religious police who forbid kite-flying and behead apostates — those are the real Muslims, and the best we can hope is that they magically transform into nominal Muslims, the Islamic equivalent of Christmas-and-Easter Christians.

Otherwise, we’ll just have to kill them all for our own safety.

This week’s feature article challenges that set of assumptions by reviewing the recent book Islam Without Extremes: a Muslim case for Liberty by Turkish author Mustafa Akyol. Akyol makes an argument for secular democracy, individual rights, and separation of church and state that is rooted in the Qur’an, and has flowered at various times throughout Muslim history — never quite triumphing, but not dying either.

Today, he sees that point of view gaining strength in his own country. Turkey today is far from a Jeffersonian utopia, but Akyol argues that it is headed in the right direction, and that the battles liberal Islam lost in medieval Baghdad and in the 19th-century Ottoman Empire are gradually being won this time. He holds out the vision of a free, prosperous Turkey — one that achieves its liberty step-by-step, without foreign invasion or colonialism — providing a model that other Muslim nations will want to follow.

The weekly summary will discuss the first State of the Union of the aw-fukkit phase of the Obama presidency, how the new Congress failed to pass a draconian abortion bill, and the Religious Right’s attempt to break the word theocracy by popularizing the oxymoron secular theocracy. (It’s the new liberal fascism.) Then we’ll close with some Bad Lip Reading of the NFL.

The Islam article is close to done, so I project it appearing around 8 EST, with the weekly summary following around 10 or 11.

The Monday Morning Teaser

It’s going to be another week where my word limit goes out the window. The featured post “Can We Overthrow the Creditocracy?” is a sort-of review of Andrew Ross’ Creditocracy and the Case for Debt Refusal. I think the book has important ideas in it, but I found Ross’ writing style distractingly polemic and sloppy with numbers, so I recast the ideas I liked in my own way of thinking. Consequently, the “review” turned into another one of my history-of-the-world-in-one-sitting posts.

I could have compensated by cutting down the weekly summary, but I really wanted to call attention to the high quality of last week’s comments on the Charlie Hebdo article. And I had a mistake to fix, which turned out to be kind of interesting. And then there’s been actual news to comment on … you know how it goes. At least I’m not talking about 2016 this week; if only CNN could say the same.

The Creditocracy article is in that stage where it’s hard to say how long it will take to screw down the details. I’m aiming for posting in the 10-11 range, but I really have no idea. The summary should follow shortly after.


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